Sunday, August 3, 2008

The saddle is no longer dusty

Ohh boy, I had a whole blog planned out but now I'm ticked. Long story short, someone is implying that I'm a pesty horse owner because I need my poor un-horsey husband to call my vet's secretary for me. And why? Because I can't use the damn phones!

Believe me, if I could have it any other way (as in, say, being able to email the secretary--which is not an option for some ridiculous reason--, or say, being able to hear well enough to use phones), I would seize it in a heartbeat. But that's not the way it is.

There have been hundreds of times when I wish I could hear normally, and there will be thousands more as my life continues. This is one of those times. The fact I had to use an awkward closed-captioning contraption at The Dark Knight last night--this reflector thing on a bendy arm that kept drooping down throughout the movie--is another time. The fact that my husband and I had been trying to smooth out a rough patch before our trip to Kentucky, then I couldn't hear him as he chatted with a tan, platinum-blonde guide behind me on our trail ride at the Horse Park, is certainly another time.

On most days, I completely forget that I'm "handicapped". But sometimes, just sometimes, I get a harsh reminder of how much harder things can be for me. So--you know who you are--thank you so much; I've already had a couple sweet reminders over the past week but a third hit was enough to drive the nail through!

Anyway, just a recap of Thursday morning's vet visit and a couple radiographs for you (speaking of pictures--no, I didn't forget the pictures of Kentucky. However, I spent 4 hours downloading them to Walgreens for printing yesterday so frankly, as much as I love them, I don't want to look at them right now!)

I lunged Lim for the vet as always and she noted how much better Limerick looks. By now, I have realized that Limerick is intentionally lazy on the lunge line. She trusts me and knows that despite the show I put on with the lunge whip, I will never touch her with it. I found this out over the past few weeks when a) she spooked at something by the door in the indoor arena once and b) when I lunged her in the outdoor arena (a rarity) and she was full of pep and bounce.

I'm thinking that for the next vet visit, I may need to ride Lim for the vet. I'll tell you why later...

Next, we took radiographs of her front feet. To my delight, her soles look almost twice as thick as they did on June 25th, the date of the last radiographs taken. The rotation is holding steady and the inflammation along the tip of her left fore coffin bone looks better.

The vet said it's basically up to my farrier now. He is doing a good job with her feet--the vet had a couple suggestions, like rounding out the toe on the left fore just enough to remove the crumbled area on the tip--and she wants to let him take the reins for a bit. He mentioned some time ago that he has some pads he can try in place of the Sole Guard stuff.

Speaking of that stuff, it has been four weeks now and it's still on! It's supposed to last 2-3 weeks. Well, just watch, now that I've said this, Lim will be missing a Sole Guard pad when I go out to the barn later.

It's been a long race but hopefully we're in the homestretch now, with just the pedal osteitis to deal with.

During the vet visit, I kept wanting to ask her if Lim will ever be 100% rideable again. But I couldn't bring myself to do it. My vet is very cautious, almost pessimistic. I was expecting the worst out of her.

"Well, Heidi, given Limerick's history and current problems, I wouldn't count on ever riding her normally again. Maybe some light walking like you're doing now, but nothing else."

Ack...the very possibility of these words coming out her mouth made my stomach twist into knots every time I worked up the courage to ask. But finally, without even planning it, the question jumped out of my mouth.

"Is there any chance I can ride her normally by the end of the year?"

"Oh sure, if she keeps getting well then yes, I would say so."

Yesssss!!!! I was debating scrapping my plan to look for an endurance or McClellan saddle for trail rides but it jumped into my head again, refreshed.

Here are the radiographs of Limerick's left fore. The top one is from February of this year. The middle one is from June 25th, and the last one is from Thursday.

Last night, for the first time since May, I pulled the cover off my saddle and carried it over to the barn. It was 8pm by the time I led Lim over to the outdoor arena. A beautiful pink sunset lit up the horizon to the west, silhouetting the trees and pasture fences. In the arena, Lim stopped and looked into the sunset, head high, eyes and nostrils wide. Only a Thoroughbred, I thought to myself. But I admired her, just the same.

I got on her as if I had never stopped gathering the reins, placing a foot in the stirrup, and swinging one leg over. That is one thing that never leaves you--the ease and grace of getting into the saddle. No matter how long I've been unable to ride--weeks, a year--it's always as easy as ever to swing aboard. After nearly 22 years, the body doesn't forget.

But once on, I felt weird. The saddle was so slippery, so high off Lim's back. I couldn't intimately feel her moving beneath me. Was it possible I had grown to feel more secure on that bareback pad? I had a momentary sense of panic. Today is the day I fall. But it soon passed. Lim strode along in a tremendous walk, her shoulders and hips swinging wide. She walked so fast and so big that we were going at the same pace of the lone other horse in the arena--a trotting Quarter Horse.

Dust met pink in the sky as I asked her to trot. First time since May.

Lots of firsts.

Uncertain with my request, she took a step then went back into a walk. I know she was reflecting me--was it really okay to trot her? The vet had said we could move on to longer walks and brief trotting on soft surfaces. But it had been so long. With just a thought, we used to kick into a canter, then a hand-gallop, the wind stinging my eyes. A trot was taken for granted, even considered boring at times.

Boring? I should know better.

Then suddenly, Lim was rolling along. Yes, rolling. Maybe it was her own exhilaration, but she was taking powerful, rolling strides at the trot. The trot I remembered felt flat in comparison. Her legs lifted up high and forward, bounding. Her neck arched but not because I was collecting her--because I was holding her steady to keep her from jumping forward into her Standardbred-like trot.

Easy now, we don't want to hurt your feet, I thought to her. "Easy girl, that's a good girl."

Now alone in twilight, we trotted around the arena. Once, twice. An exhilarated mare, all Thoroughbred, all spirit, and her quietly blown-away passenger.

No, she was not spooky. She looked around now and then as always, but neither caution nor fear entered her body.

Then back to the walk. The sun was completely gone. It was dark and cool as I slid off Lim's back and put the stirrups up.

"What a ride," I said to her.

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